FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The University of North Dakota on Friday set the process for voting on its new nickname, and no nickname — an option some people wanted but could have paved the way for the old "Fighting Sioux" moniker to persist — isn't among the choices.
A committee submitted five potential nicknames in July, but the name "North Dakota" wasn't among them. The committee was torn over whether to include the option of selecting no nickname among the finalists, but voted 7-4 against it. That led to a backlash by people who don't want a new nickname, and school President Robert Kelly to say he would consider the North Dakota nickname option.
Kelley said Friday that he decided it wasn't in the best interests of the school to do so. He went on to say that North Dakota is an identity, not a nickname.
"It is a reflection of our pride in who we are. We have been North Dakota — UND — for more than 130 years, and we always will be," he said in a statement. "The nickname committee has delivered a list of five prospective nicknames with the potential to add value to our already-existing North Dakota identity and evoke the pride and spirit that we all feel for our university and our state."
Many UND fans still wear Fighting Sioux jerseys, especially at hockey games. Following the hockey team's victory in the West Region hockey tournament last spring, the crowd inside the Scheels Arena in Fargo chanted "Sioux for-ever."
School officials earlier this month said the NCAA was worried that Sioux chants could cause other schools to complain and force the governing body of college athletics to issue sanctions.
"I have considered all this input carefully and, in determining the final voting list, have concluded that it is in the best long-term interest of the University not to use 'North Dakota' as the University's official nickname," Kelley said.
The five nickname finalists are the Roughriders, North Stars, Fighting Hawks, Nodaks and Sundogs. Online voting will be held for about a week in mid-October.
Minnesota Twins president and UND alumnus Dave St. Peter, who was one of the committee members who voted to add the North Dakota option to the list of finalists, said that while Kelley "opened the door a little bit" to putting no nickname to the voters, he's not surprised by the decision.
"At the end of the day, the committee voted to eliminate it," St. Peter said. "While I didn't like it, I understood it and respected it, as I did the entire process. I believe that it's time one way or another for the University of North Dakota to move forward."
Kevin Riley, an alumnus who helped organize a rally asking Kelley to include the no-nickname option, was less diplomatic.
"We weren't telling Kelley to name it North Dakota, we were just telling him to leave it as an option for people to vote on," Riley said. "We're just unhappy about this 'my way or the highway' attitude. We knew that when Kelley said he was going to consider it, all he was doing was trying to get everybody to calm down."
UND has been without a nickname since 2012, when the state Board of Higher Education retired the Fighting Sioux moniker that the NCAA deemed offensive. That was preceded by a lawsuit against the NCAA that resulted in a settlement agreement to drop the nickname, a law that was passed to keep the name and then rescinded, and a statewide vote that favored retiring the moniker.
People eligible to vote on the new nickname are current UND students, faculty and staff; school alumni and retirees; donors; and athletic event season ticket holders — "those individuals with the most direct ties to UND," Kelley said.
People who are a member of more than category may vote only once. Eligible voters will receive an email with voting instructions. The online voting process will be conducted by the Utah-based private research company Qualtrics.
If any of the proposed nicknames receives more than 50 percent of the votes, it will become the new moniker. If none of the options receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff vote will be held between the two top vote-getters shortly after the initial vote.